Monday 29 June 2015

Speyside - Shortie catch up!

For anyone not following my twitter feed, I've just caught up with a few images of Short-eared Owl from Speyside - tucked away here!

And 'Whose baby are you?' No cheating - it's easy really (clue - taken on an upland moor) and the answer is here!

They may not be speaking but this couple are making the most of peace and quiet on a Grouse moor - here ....

Other bits and pieces to follow!

Saturday 27 June 2015

RAF Cosford - Vulcan fly through

I've got 100's of bird images I ought to be sorting, some from May in Scotland even. But I had to sort my latest 'shoot' while the moment is fresh in my mind. It's over 40 years since my first encounter with the subject matter....

Working at RAPRA next to RAF Shawbury, I was in an out building when one took off - I can recall tables, chairs, cups, literally dancing with vibration as an Avro Vulcan skimmed the roof! It was one of those moments (like earthquakes) you never (ever!) forget!

I just had to pay homage and farewell (if it really is) to XH558 and (taking a break from some very obliging Peregrines) here it is......

Designed to avert but capable of delivering armageddon, thankfully never in anger, there's only one appropriate accompaniment , courtesy of Sheffield's finest.....

If you really aren't interested in this iconic plane, fast forward to the last image and a 'near miss'?

The Northern route of the V-Force tour took in RAF Cosford. Due at 15.23, I'd staked out a likely viewpoint (cheers Dave!!)  - it was bang on time, a couple of minutes early even in the skies above!

I wasn't expecting much other than a fly through?

But some more prolonged entertainment was on the cards as it banked to reappear!

Heading straight towards me :-)


Then heading for the heavens, engines roaring!

Showing agility you couldn't imagine from such a mighty plane?

Then plummeting downwards......

Getting closer each time!

The final fly past was this cloooose! (for 700mm of reach!)

And I wasn't expecting this! A steep climb again...

And flip! wow!! Just a shame about the worst grey sky of the session!

Incredibly (this is the actual file - not a montage) as it departed to the east, the camera reverted to type and locked onto the swallow!

Does this qualify as a near miss?? You know I thoroughly enjoyed this break from Peregrine photography but they will be coming soon!

Farewell XH558 - we salute you......

Saturday 20 June 2015

Bardsey Island - Cretzschmar's Bunting

Bird of the year? Most popular twitch? If you could get on the boat that is! We have Lee Evans to thank for turning the free for all of 'first come first served' into a sort of Wonkaesque golden 'ticket' to the boatlist. So firstly, well done Lee!!

My name in the frame for Saturday morning, after missing out on all the weekday places - only minor issue was the 5.30 sailing time!! Positive thinking kicked in ..... never mind the lack of sleep, this was prime time to see the bird??!!  (and I was due to have the company of local lads John Reeves / Dave Western!) I wasn't the driver either so secondly - well done John!!

The twitch playlist is getting longer and longer! We're going back a few years for the (optional) background music? I couldn't recall a song with 'Cretzschmars' in the title but with  'Journey' as a theme plus you don't stop believing you'll see the bird, you wouldn't twitch - it fits. Another awesome live performance too :-)

I was picked up at 1.00am fuelled with a couple of glasses of SB and sort of dozed on the drive to Porth Meudwy, thankfully Red Bull got John through the fog but otherwise quiet drive, we arrived at about 3.45, dozed a little more and then ambled down with plenty of time to the small cove

We were all half asleep as we joined a friendly crowd of 12 including familiar faces -   Chris Galvin, David Aitken and Lee Johnson were on the same boat.....

.... which unbelievably was unhitched and towed into the water in a matter of minutes. The guy middle right is Colin (the Boatman). He's the guy who got us all there - so thirdly well done Colin!!

Here we go - backwards into the water!

And in approx 30 minutes, we could see out destination - the square red and white tower is the only one of it's kind in the UK!

But never mind that, it was low tide and we had grounded - unable to get onto the slipway!

There was only one thing for it - remove ballast (some of us!!), I wouldn't have fancied tackling the slimy seaweed covered rocks....

 and luckily didn't have to.... but four brave souls slipped and slithered their way off!

I learnt quite a few swear words in Welsh during the next five minutes as the engines roared to free the boat but eventually, Colin had us safely on terra firma :-)

It was now 6.00am and after being briefed on the 'do's and don'ts' there was only one thing on our minds - lighthouse and Cretzschmar's!!

Setting the scene - the 'seeded area' is the concrete slabs from midway down the yard - typically the bird would show some 40-50m distant or on the right hand wall. I'd got my 300mm f2.8 plus 2x extender in action today knowing it was always going to be record shots only!

It was pouring down on arrival but luckily stopped by 6.40 and then at 6.45 this happened.....

Yesssssssss, despite a run in with the Wheatear, Cretzschmar's Bunting on the UK list :-) And within the next couple of minutes, everyone had seen it!

Most of the key features nicely shown, the rusty red throat and dark orange brown underparts.

 Eventually it was seen closer on one of the pads.....

White eye-ring shining out and the Thrift making a perfect backdrop?

Perhaps the best moment out in the open!

Then back to flowers in the way :-)

Head on opportunity -

I'll finish with this one, there will be much better images out there but this will do for me nicely :-)

I took this after seeing the bird, the guy furthest left is 'Steve' one of the Bardsey staff and another of the key players in getting so many birders on this bird. You can see how restricted the numbers had to be - we were standing at least three deep and for once my lack of height came to the rescue - "short persons at the front please"! He'd barely got more than 3 hours sleep each night for the past week, marshalling the groups and trying to ensure fair (viewing) play. So fourthly - well done STEVE (and the rest of the Bardsey team) - you're another star!

After six hours on the island which had literally flown by - nearly time to depart......

Everyone had donated at least a fiver!!

The thrift strewn walk back to the slipway......

The newcomers for the following week about to disembark.....

And then full steam ahead!!

What a day..... what a week in fact, I believe there was a 100% success rate for everyone who made the crossing. Spare a thought though for the Sunday teams who witnessed the fact that Cretzschmar's do not overstay their 10 day welcome, gutted for every one of them!